LARAMIE – With the clock winding down, Mountain View co-quarterback Kimball Madsen rolled to his right. There wasn’t an open receiver in sight.
But Madsen had run the same play earlier in the day, and remembered there had been some open targets on the opposite side of the field.
Protected by his offensive line, Madsen looked to his left and connected with Braeden Walk for a 12-yard touchdown pass with seven seconds to play as Mountain View claimed a 35-28 win against Glenrock on Friday afternoon in the Class 2A state championship game at War Memorial Stadium.
“I don’t even know how Kimball saw me,” Walk said. “I was going across the field. It wasn’t even designed for me.”
Walk and Madsen have split time at quarterback all season. The sophomores have both thrown touchdown passes to each other throughout the season.
The football savvy displayed by the underclassmen with the game on the line didn’t surprise Mountain View head coach Brent Walk.
“It was almost like Braeden and Kimball were reading each other like a book,” he said.
The Buffalos (9-2) wouldn’t have had a chance to put together a late drive if it hadn’t been for the efforts of their top-ranked defense.
With the game tied at 28 and four minutes and ten seconds to play, Mountain View forced Glenrock (9-2) to punt from its own 33 and the Buffalos took over at their 11-yard line.
“When we stopped them on their last series, I had a great feeling,” Brent Walk said. “We would have taken the ball on the one-yard line, because we knew if we had the ball in our hands, our kids were not going to quit and they were going to keep coming and coming.
“That’s exactly what they did.”
Mountain View has been preparing to drive the length of the field in a pressure situation since the first day of practice. The Buffalos were ready to do the same with a state championship on the line.
“Every single practice on Wednesday, coach (Ken) Peterson takes our guys up to the game field,” Brent Walk said. “We have practiced our two-minute drill every single Wednesday. The way coach Peterson called the offense all the way down the field, it was incredible. Every single call was right on the money. We had perfect calls, and our kids made plays.”
Perhaps the most important play of the drive – besides the game-winning touchdown – was when Madsen kept the drive alive by running for 25 yards on third-and-11.
“There’s no quit in our kids at all,” Brent Walk said. “Zero quit.”
Glenrock held a 28-21 lead with 9:13 to play after the Herders missed a 29-yard field-goal attempt.
That’s when the Buffalos’ offense really started to shine. It started when Madsen connected with Braeden Walk to place the ball at Glenrock’s 36-yard line. Then, on fourth-and-10 from the 36, Madsen found senior utility man Jason Stoddard with a 35-yard pass to place the ball inside the one.
Madsen finished the drive and Stoddard kicked the extra point to tie the game at 28 with six minutes and 14 seconds to play in the third quarter.
The momentum belonged to the Buffalos the rest of the way.
“I think we all played amazing,” junior Colby Rees said. “The whole game, we all played amazing.”
From the get-go, Mountain View proved why the Buffalos are the top-ranked defense in the state during Glenrock’s opening drive of the contest.
On-fourth-and-two, Mountain View recorded a stop and took over at the Herders’ 30-yard line. Madsen followed with a 25-yard run to place the Buffalos in the red zone, but Mountain View ended up missing a 30-yard field goal.
The momentum returned to the Herders when Glenrock running back Tucker Bopp ran 80 yards for a score on the ensuing possession as the Herders took a 7-0 lead with 6:41 to play in the first quarter.
But Mountain View had a quick response. Braeden Walk connected with senior Harlan Benedict with a 75-yard pass to tie the game at seven with 1:46 to play in the opening period.
The Herders’ top-ranked offense was put on display again when Bopp followed with a 44-yard run to give Glenrock a 14-7 lead with 11:08 in the second quarter. Ian Arnold followed with a five-yard carry as the Herders took a 21-7 lead with 5:16 left in the first half.
“We knew it was going to be a hard fight coming in,” Madsen said. “They’re very good. That offensive line is tough. We knew we had to keep them from getting to the outside edge and keep them to the inside, and we just had to make plays on the inside.”
Mountain View gained some momentum when Stoddard returned the ensuing kickoff to the Glenrock 48-yard line.
Madsen entered the game at quarterback at that time, a theme for Mountain View this year, and ran for 26 yards in his first carry under center. Madsen then followed with a 15-yard touchdown run to make it a 21-14 ballgame with 3:29 to play in the second quarter.
“Those kids just kept fighting and fighting,” Brent Walk said.
The celebration was short-lived for Mountain View as Payton Steinmetz returned the ensuing kickoff 80 yards to give Glenrock a 28-14 halftime lead.
But the Buffalos never lost hope.
“We knew we were in it the whole game,” Stoddard said. “We never got down on ourselves. There were times when Glenrock was rolling, but we never gave up and we never felt like we were down. We went into halftime and we were down by two scores. We’ve scored more than two touchdowns in a half before. We knew we had this.”
Mountain View came out of the locker room firing on all cylinders.
Madsen scored on a six-yard run as the Buffalos cut their deficit to seven with 10:02 to play in the fourth quarter.
That was just the beginning.
And at the end of 48 minutes, the Buffalos were able to call themselves state champions for the first time since 2014.
“This means everything,” Stoddard said. “My final season as a Mountain View Buffalo. This was the goal. This was the goal since I was a freshman after we won state my freshman year. The senior class has worked so hard for this, and we wanted it so bad.”
Stoddard finished with four catches for 59 yards and recorded nine tackles in his final game in a Mountain View uniform. Benedict had two catches for 86 yards and six tackles.
Madsen was 13 of 23 through the air for 212 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for 107 yards on 15 carries with three touchdowns.
Braeden Walk was 6 of 9 passing for 105 yards and a touchdown. He also had a team-leading six catches for 118 yards and a score.
Briggin Bluemel had 35 yards rushing on 13 carries. The sophomore also had five receptions for 30 yards and tied for the team high with nine total tackles.
Rees and Hunter Gross also recorded nine tackles, while Madsen had seven and Benedict finished with six.
“They were like machines,” Brent Walk said. “The kids made plays.”
Glenrock’s Tucker Bopp and Ian Arnold, the top rushers in Class 2A, finished with 310 yards and 56 yards rushing, respectively.
Mountain View has now won five state titles in football. The Buffalos won championships in 1984, 1995, 1997 and 2014. Soon, a state championship banner for 2017 will hang at the school.
It was the second state title for Brent Walk, who became the head coach in 2012. He led Mountain View to a second-place finish in 2013.
“We talked about this in our team meeting this morning that we haven’t achieved anything yet,” Brent Walk said. “We got to the state championship, but the goal was to win it.”
The Buffalos achieved what they had set out to do since the season ended last year.
“I don’t even know what my emotions are right now because it’s just incredible,” Brent Walk said. “These kids buy in to everything we’re teaching them. From Day 1 it’s dream it, believe it and achieve it.”
That’s exactly what Mountain View did.